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Assistant City Manager Position Survives Challenges

Mike Kopp is one step closer to role as city manager's second in command.

If Elmhurst City Council members approve the 2012-'13 budget April 16, they likely also will be deciding to add a full-time assistant city manager position. Aldermen Monday continued to debate the need for a second-in-command for City Manager Jim Grabowski, and those who believe the job is needed prevailed over those who did not.

Currently, Mike Kopp serves as both assistant city manager and fire chief. Last month, Grabowski for giving Kopp the assistant position on a full-time basis, telling aldermen that Kopp's experience made him the right candidate for the job.

About $150,000 has been budgeted for the position, including the city's portion of the hire's participation in the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund. The actual salary and benefits will be about $125,000.

Early in the discussion, 1st Ward Alderman Diane Gutenkauf moved to strike the position from the budget, a move that was supported only by fellow 1st Ward Alderman Paula Pezza and 3rd Ward Alderman Michael Bram.

“I cannot support putting another position on the taxpayers' backs,” Pezza said.

She emphasized on Tuesday that after Kopp retires, he will receive his fire chief pension, and the new position would allow him to build a second city pension.

Bram said Monday his constituents were asking why the job was needed, and Gutenkauf tried to steer the conversation away from Kopp, focusing just on the merits of making the job full time.

But aldermen who supported creating the position said they could not separate the need for the job from the fact that the right candidate was in the room. Fourth Ward Alderman Kevin York noted that Grabowski had said when he was hired that he would evaluate the need for the position and, if it was needed, he would find a way to pay for it. This was done by eliminating positions in the building and police departments, York said.

“I believe City Manager Grabowski has done everything that has been asked of him and more,” York said.

York cited the need for the city to focus more on economic development and finding efficiencies in information technology, as well as the anticipated move to a calendar-year budgeting system, as reasons for the need for more "horsepower" on the administrative staff.

Pezza then proposed keeping Kopp as a part-time manager but giving him a raise, a move that was not supported by a majority of aldermen.

Grabowski added that the move to a full-time assistant on his team would reduce the amount of money the city currently spends on consultants in economic development and other areas.

Mary Carney April 03, 2012 at 02:00 PM
"Stewart Levine", please, put your money where your mouth is and jump ship. Elmhurst would be better off. And take Pezza with you.
Walt April 03, 2012 at 02:03 PM
I see that nothing has changed in sissy town. You bet two pensions, and they will continue to hire consultants, and spent more and more for ineffective management. The weak are leading the strong and have been for the last 20+ years in Elmhurst, and it will continue until you elect a strong Mayor and city council. But it’s my bet you won’t. You get the government you deserve Elmhurst. You see the greatest generation has been replaced by the weakest generation.
Big Daddy April 03, 2012 at 02:18 PM
Just as Tom Paravola is qualified to run City Centre (not) here we go again. I agree the appointments just keep coming. I give Diane and Paula credit for the only ones who recogonize this. Instead we hire parking Nazi's to drive paying customers out of town while sales taxes continue to drop and the city management can't figure out why.
Duke of York April 03, 2012 at 04:39 PM
SPEND SPEND SPEND SPEND SPEND.... There are 4 Alderman looking out for tax payer dollars. REMEMBER THAT this time next year. When applying for his job not so long ago I'm fairly certain Mr. Grabowski did not say, "I can't do it by myself". If he had, he'd still be in Minooka. Maybe he should think about going back.
Karen Chadra (Editor) April 03, 2012 at 05:02 PM
Alderman Pezza commented today about that (added to the story). After Kopp retires, he will receive his fire chief pension, and the new position would allow him to build a second city pension, she said.
Karen Chadra (Editor) April 03, 2012 at 05:12 PM
Can't allow unfounded accusations against two private citizens, Fred. And, who are you?
Fred April 03, 2012 at 07:02 PM
"Whoooo are you, who, who, who, whooo..come on, tell me who the f#@$ are you?" I live next door to the Sol Fiske on Cottage Hill, down the steet from Big Daddy behind Stewart Levine. Duke of York is my cousin, he lives in the Pick subdivision of Villa Park.
Stewart Levine April 04, 2012 at 11:40 AM
I'm just absolutely disgusted. How about we put the money back in the tax payers pockets and eliminate a "city manager" position all together? I think the idea of nailing people for parking tickets like the other guy said is hilarious... this is supposed to be a republican town but the way it is run, you might think Betty Lauren Maltese was behind the scenes, or Daley. i think that would be the best thing to do. someone needs to start a petition against this immediately. someone should start placing anonymous complaints to the attorney generals office for forensic financial audits and complaints of potential official misconduct, this is absolutely 100% kick back city corruption taking place in our town.
Stewart Levine April 04, 2012 at 11:41 AM
I bet you if citizens stood up to this corruption and petitioned, 3 out of every 4 doors they knocked on in this town would sign it.
Stewart Levine April 04, 2012 at 11:43 AM
Mary Carney, you've obviously got your fingers in the cookie jar somewhere if you can defend this flagrant abuse of power, and obscene city government bureaucracy. perhaps one of these 'city pensioners' promised you a shopping spree at the mall with some of the dough they are stuffing in shoe boxes as fast as they can get it.
wade McGee April 04, 2012 at 12:40 PM
We need to exercise fiscal responsibility and restraint. Chief Kopp has an outstanding reputation with a history of support for the community. However, the State of Illinois is broke and is looking to push more of the burden on local government. We can not afford the pension liabilities that we are creating (the math doesn't work) nor can we support bigger government. Elmhurst Alderman need to vote in favor of the people they represent. Thank you Paula and Diane.
Dan Eversman April 04, 2012 at 04:35 PM
Stewart - quit your complaining, get off your ass and start the petition. Do something, don't just post under fake names and complain. Are you that nut job that claimed he had thousands of signatures about the property tax and NEVER produced them? If you are so disgusted, leave. Really, the rest of us wouldn't mind nor miss you. Wade - do your homework. If you did, you would know that the council SHRANK elmhurst government by 2 bodies (and that's after adding the assistant city manager job) and that salary and pensions will be $300,000 LESS next year. Paulan and/or Diane have been running for Mayor for 2 years. This is nothing more than additional politicing by those windsocks.
Stewart Levine April 05, 2012 at 12:10 PM
dan you must be in on the take, kick back city here in elmhurst, how many city of elmhurst municipal pensions do you have?
Dan Eversman April 05, 2012 at 03:07 PM
Stewardt - nope, not at all. Fortunately, I make a comfortable living and am paying into my own retirement. Don't need any public funding whatsoever. Classic deflection response by you, though. Typical of people of your ilk. Get called out on on some of your bs statements and you chose to lash out. Get off your ass and do SOMETHING. Start you pathetic petition and see how far you get. You said 3 of every 4 house would sign. You should have an easy time. When Paula and/or Diane run for Mayor (and if they do, they will lose), you can be their campaign manager. They'd be fools not to take you as their campaign manager, with your go get them attitude, how could they lose?
Darlene Heslop April 05, 2012 at 08:55 PM
at least betty lauren made sure the senior citizen's got their grass mowed and snow shoveled for free... <lol>. as for the consultants that will allegedly be without jobs when mike kopp is hired as full-time city manager (which the tax payers will be responsible for funding his retirement from both positions), they would include ken bartels (not gonna happen), charlie van slyke (retired from the city then went to work as a consultant making in the 6-figures per year - again, not gonna happen), and kathy maloney of findzall (probably not gonna happen either)...so until those 3 line items are eliminated from the budget and those contracts cancelled, we will be paying over double for the "job" that the assistant city manager is supposedly going to be doing. as for the city council, until the voters of elmhurst decide they want the city to go in a direction that is more open, fiscally responsible, transparent, and tax-payer focused, things will never change, which is unfortunate.
Deke April 05, 2012 at 09:30 PM
I will admit that I do not know a great deal of the facts (other than what I read here), but the notion that a city the size of Elmhurst needs a full-time assistant city manager does not seem implausible to me. In fact it seems quite likely given the level and quality of services the residents expect. It also seems reasonable to think that Mr. Kopp will do a very competent job in light the fact that he has been performing those responsibilities on a part-time basis already. I do not know if Elmhurst's pension liability would be less if the city hired someone from the outside who was not already accruing city pension benefits. (I would think the answer is yes; maybe someone can shed some light on that.) While I understand that reasonable people can differ on all of this, is it really as outrageous as some here say?
black hawk April 06, 2012 at 03:23 AM
Here we go again Darlene it took you a few weeks to come back from your depression. And Stewy why don't you and Darly get together and move to Looneyville (Texas, USA) it is a real place.
black hawk April 06, 2012 at 03:49 AM
Dave and Dan trust me these complainers are cronies for Bram, Pezza, and Guttendorf. They are always whining. They are part of the old regime that failed. I am not a Kopp fan however the city manager has no connections to anyone in town, he states that he needs an asst. manager give it to him until he proves otherwise. These whiners have never done nothing in their lives except being a failure in their everyday lives. Some of these whiners joined organizations to fluff up their resume until they lost the election, then they disappeared. These are selfish individual that do not care. Look at their comments they are always negative, their life is a misery, trust me I know them. Yes I do.
Dana Hellmig April 06, 2012 at 01:59 PM
Darlene, When are you going to get it? The voters in this town have spoken. Loudly. They like the direction the city is headed. They like the value for the services received. They don't mind paying when they get value. Take a look at your tax bill and see how little you are paying the city compared to other taxing bodies. Oh, wait, you can't check your tax bill can you? But, you are probably already aware of the school portion of the tax bill since you so diligently worked to get it increased DRAMATICALLY a few years ago during vote yes, twice. For you to talk about residents without jobs and tax burdens while YOU are partly responsible for the tax burden they are under is the height of hypocracy. And, least we forget, you got 115 votes in the last election, and the saying goes you get 100 just for being on the ballot. The residents of the 4th ward spoke. And spoke LOUDLY. Whatever Brookfield/Cicero inspired rubbish you are selling, the residents of Elmhurst aren't buying.
Dana Hellmig April 06, 2012 at 02:05 PM
What costs the residents of Elmhurst more? The white elephant school admin building on York, purchased with $4.5 MILLION of our tax dollars, dollars paid for with the help of Ms Heslop's vote yes twice referenda, or the consultants the city has (which do not get pensions, benefits, etc) to help with economic development since there is no longer a economic development department (which would have pensions, benefits, etc)? I think even Betty Loren Maltese would know the correct answer to that one.
Darlene Heslop April 07, 2012 at 10:15 PM
dana, i recieved more votes than you state - please get your facts straight. as for the referenda, i hate to tell you, but the voters that you on one hand defend as having spoken "loud and clear" regarding the direction of the city, also voted nearly 2:1 in favor of the district 205 referenda - even louder and clearer. i have nothing against having an assistant city manager, but i think that immediately upon hiring mr. kopp in this position, then those contract empolyees that are doing the job currently that he will be responsible for should have their contracts terminated - it is what is called being "fiscally responsible". i know how much people pay in taxes, as a matter of fact, this is one thing that keeps me from making the decision to own, not to mention the still declining housing market - not worth it right now for me financially and personally. i get it dana, more than you realize.
Darlene Heslop April 07, 2012 at 10:22 PM
i've kept up with all that is going on. with all due respect to aldermen bram, pezza, and gutenkauf, i am not cronies of any of them - as a matter of fact, at the present time, i'm beholden to no one. can you say the same?
Darlene Heslop April 07, 2012 at 10:28 PM
since you do not reveal who you really are, i have no idea if you really know me or not. i don't join just to "fluff up my resume", never have, never will. i lost an election - have you ever run for public office? i learned a lot by doing it. i don't lead a life of misery, but perhaps you do. while you feel that my comments are negative, they aren't, they are factual in nature. just because the facts are something that you don't want to read about or hear, doesn't make my commentary negative.
Darlene Heslop April 07, 2012 at 10:45 PM
i did review the tape of the last city council meeting in which this line item was voted upon. something that i found interesting was the commentary by several aldermen who stated that the impetus for requesting the asst. city manager position be approved was so that mike kopp would remain a full-time employee of the city of elmhurst. the underlying sentiment appeared to be that the city manager, staff, and majority of aldermen felt that it was essential to basically "create" a situation that would keep kopp's experience with the city of elmhurst here. i don't know if he had indicated that perhaps he might be looking elsewhere for a position as either a city manager or assist. city manager, but it wouldn't surprise me (puts him in a negotiating position for getting the job). it will be interesting to see how his move to acm then affects the fire dept. - will they promote from within or end up doing a search like they have for the police chief?
Stewart Levine April 10, 2012 at 10:02 AM
Dan is clearly an anti-semite and is clearly a bigot. You need to lay off the racial epithets.
Stewart Levine April 10, 2012 at 10:12 AM
Black Hawk, how about you move back to cook county, ehhhemmm, i mean crook county where your 'kind' belongs, and take your politics with you. They love envelopes full of cash, shoe boxes full of cash, 2nd and 3rd city pensions and collectivism via big city government, kick backs, and inside back scratching. Reminds me of Obamacare.... 17 trillion in UN-FUNDED obligations. Here the city is digging itself in the hole some more. $150k a year + a 2nd city pension. Because one is not good enough. Why not hire 3 city assistant managers for 50k each and give them those pretty white city cars to drive around in @ 4.25 a gallon, and each a nice fat city pension too. Maybe they can all be your sons and nephews black hawk. we know how you operate.
David April 10, 2012 at 03:06 PM
This smells of cryonyism - whether it is true or not. Hire the fire chief for a position to enhance economic development and information technology? Sounds like they have a candidate and are creating a position for him. The only proper way to handle this is to first justify the position (and money spent), then interview multiple candidates, then hire the most qualified. If it turns out to Mike Kopp, fantastic - but at least you've done the due diligence first.
LizW April 11, 2012 at 12:22 AM
Yes, Elmhurst has a real knack for keeping their retired city employees working.
Steve April 17, 2012 at 04:43 PM
Black Hawk - If you know these alderman then how come you hide behind a blog throwing insults at everyone. You have commented with insults at others and no facts behind your position. Why do you feel this position is needed other than the request. What do you believe is the justifcation.
Karen Chadra (Editor) April 30, 2013 at 01:28 PM
Comment removed for violating our terms.

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